January 16/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Clergymen are God's Servants & must be blameless, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent &not pursuing dishonest gains
Titus 01/I, Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,  and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.  One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith  and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 15-16/18
Where is all this going for Iran/Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
Assad continues to punish his people/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
Can Netanyahu’s corruption be seen in isolation/Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
America's Most Pressing Threat/James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/January 15/18
Trump's Policy Should Focus on Iran's People/Eli Lake/Asharq Al Awsat/Bloomberg/January 15/18
Victory under Threat in Syria/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/18
Iran: Anatomy of a National Revolt/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/18
Facebook: Championing Blasphemy Laws/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/January 15/18
The Quran Says Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews/Saied Shoaaib/Gatestone Institute/January 15/18
US sanctions will check Iranian regime’s ambitions/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/January 15/ 2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 15-16/18
Canada Urges Its Citizens to Avoid Non-Essential Travel to Lebanon
Hariri Lays Cornerstone for Emirati Embassy, Says UAE, KSA Will Always Support Lebanon
Shorter, Bassil Discuss Lebanon Support Conferences, Elections
Gunfire Targets AMAL Official in Southern Border Town
Lebanon Denounces Iraq Bombing Attack
Report: Berri Stresses Timely Elections amid Delay Concerns
Bassil Meets New Saudi Ambassador
Bassil Warns Foreign Diplomats against 'Meddling' in Elections
Netanyahu Hails New Era in Ties with India
Abi Khalil: No back to square one in exploiting Lebanon's oil wealth
Hariri: We have $16 billion investment program in infrastructure that includes 250 projects
Hariri: We should stay away from all Arab disputes

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 15-16/18
Pope Calls for Hospitality on World Migrant Day
Thirty-eight dead in central Baghdad double suicide attack
Palestinian president calls Trump peace offer ‘slap of the century’
Lavrov: Russia will not support US bid to change Iran nuclear deal
Turkey sends armed convoys to Syrian border
UAE, Bahrain condemn Qatar fighter jets intercepting two passenger planes
UAE Accuses Qatar of 'Intercepting' 2 Passenger Planes
Yemen’s Houthi militia begins recruiting female fighters

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 15-16/18
Canada Urges Its Citizens to Avoid Non-Essential Travel to Lebanon
Naharnet/January 15/18/Canada has urged its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Lebanon and to completely refrain from visiting certain areas in the country over security concerns. “Exercise a high degree of caution in Lebanon due to an unpredictable security situation and the risk of terrorist attack,” says a warning message published on the Canadian foreign ministry's website. The message calls on Canadians to “avoid all travel to the southern suburbs of Beirut, due to the threat of terrorist attacks.” It said the warning includes areas “from south of the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium to the airport perimeter” and areas “east and west of the main airport highway (neighborhoods of Bir Hasan, Bourj el Barajneh, Chiyah, Dahieh, Ghobeiry, Haret Hraik, Laylaki, Mraije, Rouais and Tariq el Jdideh) but excluding the main highway to the airport and the airport itself.”The Canadian warning also calls for avoiding all travel to parts of North Lebanon, the entire border region with Syria, the northern Bekaa Valley, the Palestinian refugee camps, and areas south of the Litani river. “Historical and tourist sites in the city of Tyre and the main coastal highway from the Litani River to Tyre are excluded from this advisory,” the message notes.

Hariri Lays Cornerstone for Emirati Embassy, Says UAE, KSA Will Always Support Lebanon
Naharnet/January 15/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed Monday that the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf countries will always support Lebanon. “Gulf states have always viewed Lebanon as a democratic country and they will always support the Lebanese people regardless of the political parties,” said Hariri during a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the new building of the UAE embassy in Beirut, which he sponsored. “This ceremony is a message to all Lebanese that the UAE cares about Lebanon and about its political, economic and security situations. It is sending a message to all Lebanese regardless of the current Lebanese disputes,” the premier added. The UAE “is present to support all Lebanese in the country,” he noted. “The UAE has always had a wise leadership that possesses a wise vision for the region, and it has always supported Lebanon together with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Hariri went on to say. Referring to the agreement that followed the reversal of his resignation, Hariri said: “We have agreed in the government on the dissociation policy and this is something very important that everyone should respect.” “They must honor it because it is in the interest of Lebanon and its stability before anything else,” the prime minister urged. He added: “We want Lebanon to be a platform for freedoms, economy and tourism and this is what we care for. We must preserve our friendly ties with all Arab countries.” Hariri had shocked Lebanon and the world when he resigned during an unusual TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia in November, citing assassination threats and blasting the policies of Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon and the region. After a puzzling mini-odyssey that took him to France, Egypt and Cyprus, Hariri returned to Lebanon after around two weeks and then announced the reversal of his resignation after a deal was reached with the Hizbullah-led camp on distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts.

Shorter, Bassil Discuss Lebanon Support Conferences, Elections
Naharnet/January 15/18/British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter held talks Monday with Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil. “I was pleased to meet Foreign Minister Bassil and to discuss upcoming international conferences for Lebanon’s security and prosperity,” Shorter said after the meeting. “The UK is one of the biggest supporters of Lebanon in terms of our aid contributions and security partnership, and I look forward to this continuing in the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolutions and statements of the International Support Group for Lebanon,” the ambassador added. Talks also tackled the upcoming parliamentary elections that will be held in May. “I was pleased to hear from Minister Bassil that they remain on track to happen on 6 May as planned,” Shorter said. He added that he discussed with Bassil as FPM chief “the importance of including a large number of women candidates on the party’s lists, to ensure increased representation of women in parliament.” This is “something which I know many Lebanese are hoping for, and was pleased that Minister Bassil was of the same view,” Shorter went on to say.

Gunfire Targets AMAL Official in Southern Border Town
Naharnet/January 15/18/AMAL Movement official N. Baalbaki came under gunfire Sunday in the southern border town of Adaisseh, a media report said. MTV said Baalbaki was driving his car inside the town accompanied by his brother when the vehicle was targeted. “The shooter fled to an unknown destination as security forces arrived on the scene and launched an investigation,” the TV network added. Unnamed sources meanwhile described the incident as an “assassination attempt,” in remarks to MTV.

Lebanon Denounces Iraq Bombing Attack
Naharnet/January 15/18/Lebanon's Foreign Ministry denounced Monday's bombing attack that rocked the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killing and wounding several, a ministry statement said. The Ministry said the attack follows Iraq's “triumph against the Islamic State terror group and the successive defeats it achieved against it. It reflects the organization's attempt to prove its standing on the Iraqi arena by shedding more blood of innocent lives.”A double suicide bombing killed 26 people in Baghdad on Monday, the second such attack in the Iraqi capital in three days. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tayyaran Square in central Baghdad. In December, the Iraqi government announced the "end of the war" against IS, which has been expelled from the Baghdad region and urban areas of Iraq that it controlled. Jihadist elements are still active, however, north of Baghdad.

Report: Berri Stresses Timely Elections amid Delay Concerns
Naharnet/January 15/18/Assurances that Lebanon is going to stage timely parliamentary elections is marred by rumors that it could be postponed for “circumstances beyond the State's will, or for technical reasons having to do with reforms,” while Speaker Nabih Berri stresses timely polls, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. Preparations at the political, administrative and field levels are underway to stage the May 6 polls, but a senior political source who spoke on condition of anonymity said “two reasons could delay the elections.” “First, shall some compelling circumstances beyond the State's will take place. Second, if technical disputes were caused under the banner of reforms in order to delay them for another six months, and pave the way for the new parliament to witnesses the election of the next president,” according to the source. However, Speaker Nabih Berri has reiterated saying “elections will be staged on time. The electoral law which is based on a proportional representation system can not be amended nor modified.”“Many dream of changing the law, which is impossible. What has been written is written. Preparations to wage the elections on time are underway,” stressed Berri. The electoral law based on a proportional representation system was approved in 2017. Suggestions demanding changes and the creation of polling megacenters and the creation of magnetic voting cards arose recently, only five month before the elections are due.

Bassil Meets New Saudi Ambassador
Naharnet/January 15/18/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil held talks with the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Yaacoub on Monday, one day after remarks urging diplomats “not to interfere in Lebanon's politics or parliamentary elections,” the National News Agency reported. Bassil, who met Yaacoub at his office in the foreign ministry, received an invitation to a meeting of the the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to be held in Saudi Arabia, said NNA. On Sunday, the Free Patriotic Movement chief, Bassil, warned of "foreign attempts" to meddle in the upcoming parliamentary elections. "I warn against the interference of foreign forces in our affairs and I caution all those who work in the diplomatic field to know their limits and abide by diplomatic norms and international conventions," Bassil had said. Last week, Yaacoub presented his credentials to President Michel Aoun. The step followed a political row between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon against the backdrop of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation, which he eventually revoked. The resignation was widely blamed on SA.

Bassil Warns Foreign Diplomats against 'Meddling' in Elections
Naharnet/January 15/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Sunday warned of "foreign attempts" to meddle in the upcoming parliamentary elections. "Foreign attempts to meddle in our parliamentary elections have started, but the era in which ambassadors used to choose our MPs has ended," said Bassil during a tour of the Akkar region. "I warn against the interference of foreign forces in our affairs and I caution all those who work in the diplomatic field to know their limits and abide by diplomatic norms and international conventions," Bassil added. He noted that Lebanon is keen not to join foreign axes while noting that the country "does not want interferences that are prohibited by the Arab League charter."‏‎Earlier in the day, Bassil criticized Lebanese parties “dismayed by the return of partnership” between Christians and Muslims in the country. “Those dismayed by the return of partnership and electoral reform are expressing their dismay in several ways,” Bassil said. “Facing attempts to usurp your rights, you must respond through voting and a heavy and effective turnout,” the FPM leader added, addressing FPM supporters in Akkar. “Our insistence on the full implementation of the electoral law as it was passed in parliament is aimed at enabling every voter in Lebanon to effectively participate in the electoral process,” Bassil went on to say.The new electoral law replaces the winner-takes-all voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts from 26 to 15.It comes after years of wrangling during which political parties rejected various proposals for fear of losing parliamentary seats.

Netanyahu Hails New Era in Ties with India
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 15/18/Benjamin Netanyahu hailed a "new era" in ties with India on Monday as he signed a series of deals during the first visit by an Israeli Prime Minister in 15 years. Netanyahu made the comment after talks with Narendra Modi, who made history in July when he became the first Indian leader ever to visit Israel. He is accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation to travel with an Israeli leader, including technology, agriculture and defense executives. The two men embraced warmly, appearing to overcome any tensions over India's refusal to support U.S. moves to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, before signing agreements on cybersecurity and energy. "We are ushering today a new era in our relations," Netanyahu said after their talks. "We have had diplomatic relations for 25 years, but something different is happening now because of your leadership and our partnership."
Earlier, Netanyahu said he was "disappointed" by India's decision to vote for a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly opposing the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Israel is already a major weapons supplier to India, exporting $1 billion of military equipment annually. Earlier this month India announced it would buy 131 surface-to-air missiles from Israel for its first domestically made aircraft carrier. But New Delhi needs to balance closer ties with Israel with its historic support for the Palestinian cause. Dozens gathered near the Israel embassy to protest at Netanyahu's visit on Monday. Modi also wants to end India's status as the world's top defense importer and encourage foreign companies to transfer their technology to local firms to create much-needed jobs. India has already canceled a $500 million deal to buy Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles after apparently deciding to manufacture the equipment at home. On Monday Modi said he had invited Israeli defense companies "to take advantage of the liberalized FDI (foreign direct investment) regime to make more in India with our companies." Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit India since Ariel Sharon's trip in 2003. On Tuesday he will visit the Taj Mahal and travel to Modi's home state of Gujarat before heading to Mumbai where the majority of India's estimated 4,500 Jews live. There, he will make an emotional visit to a Jewish center targeted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Netanyahu is accompanied by 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were among 166 people killed by Pakistani militants in coordinated attacks on the city. While in Mumbai he will also host a party for Bollywood producers where he will trumpet Israel as a filming location. India said it was sending a delegation to Israel next month for talks on a free trade agreement. The two countries have been negotiating the agreement since 2006 with a focus on information technology, biotechnology, and agriculture. Trade between India and Israel rose to $5 billion in 2016–17 from $4.91 billion in the previous fiscal year.

Abi Khalil: No back to square one in exploiting Lebanon's oil wealth
Mon 15 Jan 2018/NNA - Water and Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil sounded adamant that there is no going back to square one in exploiting Lebanon's oil wealth, describing Lebanon's petroleum-related legislative and regulatory system as enjoying high standards of transparency. Minister Abi Khalil's fresh words on Monday came in an interview with the "Economy and Business" Magazine. "Lebanon will start to reap the benefits of its entry into the oil and gas producing countries' club, once the offshore exploration and drilling phase begins," Abi Khalil told the Magazine.
He pointed out that the Council of Ministers has already approved the offshore exploration and production agreements for blocks 4 & 9.
Abi Khalil also pointed out that the big international oil companies have expressed their trust in the legislative and regulatory system adopted by Lebanon in this regard, saying such a system is characterized by high standards of transparency. "The legislative and regulatory system devised by Lebanon concerning the path of petroleum activities is deemed one of the best systems in the world," the Minister said, adding that this system is characterized by high standards of governance and transparency.
In reply to aquestion about the expected volume of petroleum reserves, Abi Khalil said that the drilling operations shall confirm with facts and figures that Lebanon has become an 'oil state' in every sense of the word.

Hariri: We have $16 billion investment program in infrastructure that includes 250 projects
Mon 15 Jan 2018/ NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri said that the banking sector is Lebanon's backbone and we have to preserve it with all our energy, stressing that the Lebanese economy must remain free and we should liberate it more and more and keep the hand of the state away from it. He pointed out that the 2018 budget will not include any new taxes but many incentives that would help the private sector.
Hariri's statements came during a dialogue held today with economists at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agricultural in Beirut, in honor of the former President of the Economic and Social Council Roger Nasnas.
At the onset of the ceremony, Hariri said: "We meet today to honor a dear friend, Roger Nasnas who preserved the Economic and Social Council during the past period despite all the shocks, crises and paralysis in the public institutions. Today he is handing it over to people in whom we also have high hopes, so they follow the same path, the path of Lebanon's advancement.
Today we are at the beginning of a long workshop for the advancement of the country, and the Economic and Social Council should accompany us in the coming period. There is no doubt that the council is the ideal and natural place to hold all economic and social dialogues between all sectors of the Lebanese society represented in it, away from the streets, squares and the doors of politicians.
Today's priority in Lebanon is stability. Security, political, economic and social stability. We prepared a road map for stability, growth and job opportunities. All this started with the meeting of the International support group held in Paris on December 8, 2017. It will continue in Rome II conference that is expected to be held at the end of February to support the Lebanese Army and the military and security institutions. The Paris conference is expected to be held in France at the beginning of April to support economic stability in Lebanon."
He added: "We are going to the Paris conference with a clear program and specific objectives. We have a significant investment program in infrastructure, a $16 billion program that includes more than 250 projects in transportation, water, electricity and sewage system, in addition to projects related to communications, public health, education and the cultural heritage of Lebanon. This program, which is expected to bring the growth rates back to 6 and 7% and create tens of thousands of job opportunities for the Lebanese youth, includes vital projects that we need in order to have a modern infrastructure that would meet your ambitions and aspirations and allow you to increase your investments.
We presented this program to the World Bank, which reviewed and evaluated it, stressing the importance of the targeted sectors in this program and the importance of the projects included to improve the Lebanese economy. Our aim at the Paris conference is to secure the necessary financing for these projects through soft loans from the international funds, financial institutions and from friendly countries."
Hariri continued: "Around 40% of the projects in the investment program can be implemented through the partnership between the public and private sectors with an estimated value of $7 billion dollars out of the total $16 billion. The legal mechanism is here after Parliament approved a law that organizes the partnership between the public and private sectors, so you can start implementing today. We and Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group are preparing a joint conference to be held on February 22 to present these projects and discuss them with the local and foreign private sectors to stimulate private sector financing.
In parallel with finalizing the investment program, we have begun work on defining Lebanon's economic identity by preparing a detailed study of the productive sectors in order to delineate the promising traditional and new sectors. These sectors will be a source of growth and job opportunities in the coming years, in addition to specifying the steps that should be taken to improve these sectors.
But this alone is not enough. We have to start the necessary sectoral and structural reforms to ensure the full success of the upcoming Paris conference. I know that you are waiting for these reforms. You want security and stability, and not chaos; you want a modern infrastructure and not a shabby one; you want public institutions that facilitate your work and not hinder it; you want a legal framework that protects your rights to increase your investments and develop your work and you want financial and monetary stability. All this is a priority on our agenda today."
He concluded: "I know that the project we are carrying to the Paris Conference is a big project, but we as Lebanese think big. Rafic Hariri always thought of ways to allow Lebanon, this small country, to emerge in the big world. This is why our objective is to develop the infrastructure and we should work day and night to achieve it because it is our duty as government, as Economic and Social Council, as chamber of commerce and as businessmen to work together for the advancement of the country. This needs dialogue. Today we have all this and we should all start a dialogue to implement the projects and develop the country.
I am sure we are capable of doing this and that the Lebanese youth want to stay in the country. We do not want their only hope to be to leave the country. The Paris conference is just the beginning. It is true that it is a big project but not an impossible one because the private sector has a big part in it and I am certain that this conference will be successful.
I want to thank all the efforts exerted by Roger Nasnas, which were personal efforts. He was able to preserve the council despite the difficult situation in the country and the political situation, and he used to spend from his own money because he believed in the council and its work.
Today, Charles Arbid also has a difficult mission because the economic situation is very difficult and we have to work together for the advancement of the country and I hope we can achieve this."
For his part, the president of Beirut Municipality Jamal Itani announced that a committee chaired by Premier Hariri, that includes economists, media figures and intellectuals, would work to revive Beirut Central District. The plan, that includes activities, also involves dialogue with the owners and investors to provide the necessary incentives that would lead them to bring their investments back to Beirut Central district.
After that, a dialogue took place between Prime Minister Hariri and the economists. Asked if he considers it important to reduce taxes and end disputes between politicians for economists to work, he replied that no one in the state wants to target any sector.
"We are witnessing a very severe economic crisis and the past vacuum and divisions affected Lebanon a lot. You all know the growth rates in 2016 and 2017, add to it the presence of 1.5 million displaced Syrians and the export of Lebanese goods by sea only. All these issues had a very negative effect on the country and I agree with you that the taxes were harsh. But the 2018 budget will not see any new taxes but many incentives that will help the private sector because it is the primary employer. The problem we are experiencing today is the economic inertia and this is why we prepared an ambitious program for the Paris conference because it ensures thousands of job opportunities. We on our part have to change our commercial laws because it is not normal that in 2018 we are still subject to laws put in 1950 and even before.
On the other hand, there are economic ideas that I do not approve, especially that some in the government want to increase the taxes on the private sector. There will be no tax this year on the private sector but lots of incentives. Also, my primary role in the country is to bring all the Lebanese together on one agenda and ease the political differences. No political dispute should affect the ministerial and economic work."
Question: Tripoli and the North need investments, and we hope to keep the economic file away from the tensions in the region.
Hariri: When we will present the investment program in the infrastructure, all areas will have big shares but the biggest share will be for the North because it has been forgotten and we should invest in its infrastructure. This will open new horizons to the private sector to invest in the airport, port, railway as well as the FSRU and the power plants. When we conducted tests on wind power generation, we noticed that Akkar is the most productive area in this. There is also an idea to build a port in Akkar in conjunction with the development of the Tripoli port. Also, President Mouawad Airport is part of the investment project that we prepared for Paris conference.
Question: We hope that you will promote the industrial sector and take measures that would increase exports?
Hariri: We have to protect our factories within the framework of the agreements signed with several countries and which should be fully implemented. We must also help with the issue of transportation which was greatly affected by the crisis in Syria. Also, our economy should remain a free economy and we must free it more and more and keep the hand of the state away from it.
Asked about the steps that will be taken to enhance the role of the banking sector, he answered: "The banking sector is Lebanon's back bone. Lebanon never failed to pay any loan due to the effective role of the Central Bank and the banking sector. The focus of some on the banking sector is abusive because it is the only sector that is achieving success in this period because the other sectors are affected by the harsh political disputes. Tourism for example should be the most important sector in the country, and when tourism is fine, agriculture, industry, airport, infrastructure and other sectors would be fine.
There are many sectors that benefit from tourism, but the political problems and the use of platforms to attack some countries and instill fear in the people who want to come to Beirut, have negatively affected these sectors and showed that the banking sector is the only one that is working. If all the sectors were working well, they would all be balanced. Maybe you are talking about the crisis that happened two months ago, but this crisis also happened 14 months and if it were not for the banking sector, the country would not have been able to overcome the severe crisis it experienced in the presidential issue. Many criticized the solutions of the Central bank at the time, but the fact is that without these solutions the pound would not have survived. We should preserve the banking sector with all our energy."
In response to a question about women's rights and the steps that he plans to take to implement his promises towards women, Hariri said: "In fact Lebanon is one of the countries that adopted the laws of women rights. We, as political blocs, should start working on this. For me, in the Prime Minister's office and in my private office, 60% of those working with me are women. Thus, I say that we achieved the quota and more."
Question: How can we protect agriculture in Lebanon?
Hariri: On the subject of industry and agriculture, protection is necessary, taking into account the agreements we have signed with all countries, otherwise Lebanon will become isolated and incapable of exporting or importing. In the same context, I support having a detailed study on agriculture and industry. I am with an industry supported by the state on condition that it will have its return after few years and can depend on itself.

Hariri: We should stay away from all Arab disputes
Mon 15 Jan 2018/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri sponsored this afternoon the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the new building of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.
After the ceremony, Hariri said: "Today is a blessed day. This reflects how the UAE perceives this country and its stability, and the continuous support of the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf States for Lebanon during all its ordeals. This is a blessed step and we thank His Excellency for it."
Question: Today you laid the foundation stone for a new diplomatic building. Are there any steps that you will take to revive the economic situation in the country?
Hariri: The Gulf States always regarded Lebanon as a democratic country and always support the Lebanese people regardless of the political parties. Laying the foundation stone of this embassy is a message to all the Lebanese that the United Arab Emirates cares about Lebanon and the political, economic and security situation in it. It tells all Lebanese, regardless of the Lebanese disputes, that it supports all Lebanese.
The UAE always had a wise leadership that looks wisely at the region. The UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia always support Lebanon and this always assures us.
Question: What about the political crises that we are witnessing?
Hariri: We agreed in the government, especially after my return, on the disassociation policy. This is a very important issue that should be respected by everyone and they should do their duty towards it because it is in Lebanon's interest and stability. We should stay away from all Arab disputes and we should have a clear position on the disassociation policy. We are an Arab state, part of the Arab system and with Arab unity. And we should underline the dissociation policy and that Lebanon attracts all Arabs. We want to be a platform for freedoms, economy and tourism. This is what concerns us and we should maintain our friendly relations with all Arab countries.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 15-16/18
Pope Calls for Hospitality on World Migrant Day
Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/18/Mutual fears between immigrants and their new communities are understandable, but must not prevent new arrivals from being welcomed and integrated, Pope Francis said on Sunday in a special Mass to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Francis, a keen defender of the rights of migrants, was addressing a congregation including migrants and refugees from some 50 countries, whose flags festooned the area around the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. “Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived will disturb the established order, will ”steal“ something they have long labored to build up,” he said, while “the newly arrived ... are afraid of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”“Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection.”As politicians and civil society grapple with the mass movement of people around the world, with flashpoints including in the Mediterranean, and between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the pope has repeatedly urged support for those who migrate. Argentina-born Francis, who was the first non-European elected to the post in nearly 1,300 years, has criticised President Donald Trump’s stated intention to build a wall to stop illegal migrants crossing the US border with Mexico. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics also met Muslim refugees in Myanmar and Bangladesh last year and called for decisive action to solve political problems that cause many to flee. On Sunday, he said newcomers must “know and respect the laws, the culture and the traditions of the countries that take them in”. Communities, meanwhile, have “to open themselves without prejudices to (newcomers’) rich diversity, to understand the hopes and potential of the newly arrived as well as their fears and vulnerabilities”. On Monday Francis will begin an eight-day tour of his native South America, visiting Peru and Chile.

Thirty-eight dead in central Baghdad double suicide attack
Al Arabiya English/January 15/18/A double suicide attack killed 38 people in Baghdad on Monday, a health official said, the second such attack in the Iraqi capital in three days. Earlier reports by spokesmen from the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry had 26 killed and at least 16 dead, respectively, and dozens wounded. Dr Abdel Ghani al-Saadi, health chief for east Baghdad, reported “26 dead and 90 wounded”. “Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in al-Tayyaran square in central Baghdad,” said General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and the police. He said there had been 16 deaths. According to an AP report, Iraq's interior ministry said back-to-back suicide attacks in central Baghdad kill at least 16 people, wound 65. Another report by Reuters, quoting Iraqi interior ministry, said that at least 16 people were killed and 65 wounded in the twin suicide bombing in central Baghdad. The toll could rise as more bodies were being recovered from the site at Aviation Square, the ministry said in a statement. The AP report quoted Maj. Gen. Saad Maan as saying that the rush-hour attack struck at the city’s Tayran Square on Monday morning. He said it was carried out by two suicide bombers and that the explosions also wounded at least 65 people. The area around the square is usually crowded by laborers seeking work. Iraqi Interior Ministry Spokesman Saad Maan: 2 suicide bombers attacked al-Tayaran Square in #Baghdad. 16 killed & 65 wounded.  Security sources indicated that the twin blast targeted workers gathering in the area.  No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of ISIS, which has claimed such attacks before. Militant attacks have decreased significantly in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the country’s security forces retook nearly all territory once held by ISIS. Iraqi and US officials have warned ISIS would continue with insurgent-style attacks. Iraqi security forces working at the scene of a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Jan. 13, 2018. (AP)

Palestinian president calls Trump peace offer ‘slap of the century’
AFP, Ramallah/January 15/18/Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas denounced US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace efforts as the “slap of the century” on Sunday after the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas also said Israel had “ended” the landmark Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions, while branding the US ambassadors to the UN and to Israel, Nikki Haley and David Friedman, a “disgrace”. “We said ‘no’ to Trump, ‘we will not accept your project’,” Abbas said at the start of a key meeting of Palestinian leaders on how to face Trump’s declaration. “The deal of the century is the slap of the century and we will not accept it,” he added, referring to Trump’s pledge to reach the “ultimate deal” -- Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Abbas made his comments at the opening ceremony of the meeting taking place on Sunday and Monday in a marathon speech that lasted some two hours. The meeting was called in the wake of Trump’s December 6 declaration on Jerusalem that deeply angered the Palestinians. Abbas had previously said the United States could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process after Trump’s move. On Sunday, he said the Palestinians were calling for an internationally led process in which the United States was not the mediator. He said the Ramallah meeting must take decisions on how to move forward.
“I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo,” Abbas said, referring to the agreements that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority and envisioned a final resolution to the conflict. “Israel ended Oslo.”

Lavrov: Russia will not support US bid to change Iran nuclear deal
Reuters, Moscow/January 15/18/Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday Moscow will not support attempts by Washington to modify the Iran nuclear deal. Lavrov spoke days after US President Donald Trump said he would waive nuclear sanctions against Iran for the last time to give Washington and its European allies a chance to fix the “terrible flaws” of the 2015 nuclear deal. “We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. Russia's top diplomat, who stressed that Russia will work to preserve the existing Iran nuclear deal, also warned that the agreement's collapse could be detrimental to dialogue with North Korea. “If the deal is put aside and Iran is told, ‘you keep up with your obligations or we will impose sanctions again’, then you have to put North Korea in its place,” Lavrov said. “They are being promised that sanctions will be lifted if they give up their nuclear program. They will give it up, but no one will lift the sanctions against Pyongyang.”

Turkey sends armed convoys to Syrian border
Al Arabiya English/January 15/18/Turkish forces began a military fortification plan on their border, sending reinforcements to areas bordering Syria. A convoy, including armed vehicles and soldiers, arrived in the Sanliurfa province southeast of Turkey, and will be heading to Gaziantep, according to local Turkish media. A similar convoy also carrying military equipment reached the southern province of Hatay. The move followed the announcement by the US-Kurdish Alliance of the formation of a border force headed by Kurdish factions to fight ISIS. This was described by the Turkish president as “disturbing and unacceptable”. The move will include 30 convoys, half of which will consist of Syrian Democratic Forces, spread along the borders with Syria, Iraq and the Euphrates river extension. The alliance will also train and prepare the Kurdish convoys on managing checkpoints which will be distributed over 820 kilometers across the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkish forces had initiated a military operation in Afrin against Kurdish fighters where President Erdogan promised to prevent any armed Kurdish presence near the borders of his country.

UAE, Bahrain condemn Qatar fighter jets intercepting two passenger planes
AFP, Abu Dhabi/January 15/18/A Qatari fighter jet intercepted two civil aircrafts en route to Bahrain International Airport while on their regular daily routes, the UAE General Authority of Civil Aviation said on Monday. “Qatari fighter jets intercept an Emirati civilian aircraft during a routine flight to Manama in a flagrant threat to civil aviation safety and in a clear violation of international law,” the UAE General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement published by the state news agency. The General Authority of Civil Aviation is considering the available legal options with the International Civil Aviation Organization. The United Arab Emirates is one of four Arab states that cut all relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of ties to both extremists and Shiite Iran. Qatar has denied intercepting the Emirati passenger plane. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain strongly condemned the Qatari fighter jets intercepting the civilian aircrafts which were on their regular daily scheduled routes.

UAE Accuses Qatar of 'Intercepting' 2 Passenger Planes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 15/18/The United Arab Emirates accused rival Qatar of "intercepting" two Emirati passenger planes en route to Bahrain Monday in the latest incident between the Gulf rivals.Qatar denied that the first plane had been intercepted, but there was no immediate denial from Doha for the second incident. The UAE "General Civil Aviation Authority received a message from a national carrier on Monday morning that an aircraft on a routine flight to Manama was intercepted by Qatari fighter jets", it said in a statement carried by the state news agency. The authority said it was "a flagrant and serious threat to the safety of civil aviation and a clear violation of international law". "This is a routine flight that has all the required paperwork," it said. The authority later said a second Emirati passenger plane bound for Bahrain was also intercepted by Qatari fighter jets. It said the second plane was intercepted "during its descent towards Bahrain International Airport", adding that it was also on a routine pre-scheduled flight. A spokeswoman for Qatar's foreign ministry denied the first incident had occurred. "The state of Qatar announces that the claims of Qatari fighter planes intercepting a UAE civil aircraft (are) completely false," Lulwa al-Khater said on Twitter.  Four UAE-based airlines -- Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia -- operate flights to Bahrain. Spokespersons for the airlines contacted by AFP could not immediately confirm or deny the news. Monday's allegations came after Qatar accused UAE fighter jets of violating its airspace in December and January. Qatar is located in the Gulf, between Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and across the Gulf waters from Iran. Tensions have escalated in the Gulf since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar in June, accusing Doha of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to Saudi Arabia's arch-rival, Iran. They have banned all flights to and from Doha and cut off most trade links. Qatar denies the allegations, arguing the bloc aims to incite regime change in Doha.

Yemen’s Houthi militia begins recruiting female fighters
Al Arabiya English/January 15/18/The Houthi militia began recruiting women to fight on battlefronts after suffering grave human losses, Yemeni sources in Sanaa revealed. The sources added that the militia is using force and financial incentives to recruit women as most of their finest trained fighters were killed since the war began. The Houthis’ named the women’s battalions ‘al-Zainabiyat’, using their media outlets to occasionally broadcast videos of women training to fight in militia-controlled areas in Sanaa. The videos show women using different types of arms, and driving armed and military vehicles. The sources added that female student dormitories are among the places targeted by recruitment campaigns run by female Houthis. Their families’ difficult living circumstances are used by the militia to lure them in by force or financial incentives, sources said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 15-16/18
Where is all this going for Iran
Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
So once again there are people in the streets of Iran. In 2009 the “Green Revolution” emerged but ill-fated was doomed to a crushing response by those who wielded absolute power in Tehran. By in large those same individuals who were in the position to use the instruments of state power to end the Green Revolution have continued to remain firmly entrenched in their positions of authority since then. And the actions of Iran under Ali Khamenei have been telling since 2009. Tehran has used all available resources it has access to for the enabling of the sadistic repression by Damascus against those citizens of Syria who, like their Iranian counterparts, wanted to use the right to peaceably assemble to petition their government. This same regime has sent ballistic missiles to Houthi’s in Yemen, made available special forces to assemble, sight and fire these weapons which have subsequently been used to target civilians, and major urban population centers in Saudi Arabia.
Q&A: Iran should be put on notice for its missile proliferation in Yemen
With the help of these same individuals who orchestrated the actions against Iranian and Syrian citizens, they also put into Iraq nefarious militias that would etch their actions into the psyche of large swathes of the Iraqi population with horrors of their own accord, culminating with the haunting names of Saqlawyia and the Razaza Checkpoint. There is no question that these individuals who currently occupy the seats of power in Tehran will not hesitate to use any means available to deny dignity and freedom, to the citizens of Iran and throughout the region as well, while using torture and murder as their response.
The people of Iran, both those who support and do not support the ulema and its Khomeinist ideology, know of what happened to the Tudeh Party in the 1980’s, the existence of Building 203, or Evin Prison. The international community also knows as well. It does bear repeating that Iranian government does not give dignity to Iranian people, or tens of millions of people throughout the region
Horrors of the state
In National Socialist Germany and Bolshevik Russia there was no need to speak of the horrors that the state was capable of inflicting against anyone it chose to should it feel the prerogative to do so. Citizens of Germany and Bolshevik Russia knew of the secret police, its unlimited scope of power, and the camps.
Again, it does bear repeating that the government in Tehran does not give dignity to the Iranian people, or tens of millions of people throughout the region. There should not be the expectation that it will adjust, moderate, or change its behavior. To date it has not been shown any incentive to do so. But yet, despite the reality of its nature, the world is once again watching the people of Iran out in full public view, protesting the actions of the clerical regime. So this time, where is this all going? And what can be done? The global diplomatic community offers platitudes more than deliberate purpose. Based on what we have seen so far, the Rohingya in Burma have been slaughtered, and ethnically displaced in pursuant to deliberate state policy under the leadership of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Burma has not been held into account for its actions. Bashar Al Asad remains in power in Syria.
His legitimacy seems to have more recognition that the unspeakable death he delivered to the civilians of Syria. Men, Women, Children, Dogs, Cats, Zoo Animals, and simple livestock were all touched by the evil of Bashar Al Asad. Like Burma, Syria has not been held into account fo its actions. The international community has failed to make a difference in Congo or Somalia.
Russia’s annexation of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and The Crimea have all but been accepted and the estimated 10,000 who have died in the Donbass are hardly ever mentioned. The global diplomatic community is good at having talks about North Korea but little else.
To the bureaucrats who meet to discuss these, and many other topics, it seems that procedures are everything and outcomes nothing. So if the past is able to offer hindsight and it is a light into future behavior it is hard to put faith in the efforts of both those in Tehran who are currently manufacturing their response to their own citizens and the global community that is concerned about its actions. So, what can be done?
‘The evil empire’
US President Ronald Reagan called Bolshevik Russia “the Evil Empire.” It was, and he was right. It was the greatest enslaver and murder of people that history has ever known. Only Maoist China can rival it on a pure body count. The rulers of Moscow held sway over an empire that went from the Pacific, throughout Central Asia, the Caucasus, Baltic States, Central and Eastern Europe keeping the peoples enslaved as prisoners walled off from the rest of the world only to live in a parallel universe. For all intents and purposes, Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad are all the outposts of this regime. In order that the people of Iran can finally have the freedom and dignity that they have desired since 1979 the global community needs to look at Ali Khamenei, the IRGC, those within the state security apparatus, and the most powerful people within the clerical regime as a regional version of Bolshevik Russia. A Cold War-like policy of containment needs to be enforced against Tehran, and its ability to participate in all meaningful forms of global commerce should be denied, immediately and forthwith. The removal of the ulema in Iran, when it does finally occur, could potentially be viewed as the most significant geopolitical action since the fall of the Berlin Wall. As beneficial as the removal of the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terror would have for all, the greatest benefit would be the liberation of the Iranian people and their talents finally made available for the world to benefit from.

Assad continues to punish his people
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
The Syrian Civil War is won. The Damascus government has reasserted control over the majority of Syria’s territory and President Bashar al-Assad is secure in his position. Despite the endless list of humanitarian abuses he has presided over since 2011, the international community is no longer calling on his removal and prosecution in international courts, and no internal Syrian faction looks likely to be able to challenge his government much longer. But though the war is won, that does not mean it is over. Or that the Assad regime will be magnanimous in victory. The regime is currently carrying out operations in Idlib, the last province still controlled by the rebels, and eastern Gouta. And the tactics they are using are familiar in their brutality. The first targets have been the hospitals. Just as they were in Aleppo. From here, we can expect the same pattern of systematic attacks on civilian targets, and starvation sieges, until the local population is beaten into submission.
Already, in just the last few days 100,000 people have been pushed out their homes – in the middle of winter. And what makes the situation in Idlib particularly precarious is that the province has become host to over 1.1 million internal refugees from other parts of Syria previously brutalised by the regime.
With such a large number of people in such a precarious situation, with the winter raging on, with medical facilities destroyed and with the expected food shortages, this latest assault by the regime has every chance of being the worst humanitarian disaster in the conflict yet.
And it is not beyond reason to expect that it will trigger another regional refugee crisis, which will further destabilized an already fragile and degrading order. But now Assad can rest on the assumption that he has full impunity. His allies, Russia and Iran, will see this to the end. And they shield him from Western censure – weak as it has been in recent years.
The Idlib assault attests to this: the region was supposed to be a “de-escalation” zone agreed with Russia, Iran but also Turkey, who maintains peace-keeping forces in the region. The attacks are ongoing despite the presence of the Turkish forces.
If the regime does not even attempt to rebuild legitimacy in the closing days of this conflict, and continues to brutalize civilian populations needlessly, its victory is likely to be a short-lived one
Meaningful international response?
Is there at this point in time any atrocity Assad can commit that would garner a meaningful international response? As everyone is looking forward to the conflict being resolved, the tolerance for the methods of the regime in their final offensives seems boundless. And for a regime with their proven track record, this is a recipe for disaster. The calculation in much of the international community, especially it seems in Western capitals, is that letting the Assad regime get on with it and re-establishing authority in the entire country is, at this point, probably going to cause the least amount of human suffering. But there are two reasons to be weary of this. Firstly, the regime has shown itself to be punitive and to continue to be punitive against civilian populations which resisted it even in regions where it has already re-established itself. The end of the war will not be the end of the suffering for the majority of the Syrian people.
And this should come as no surprise given the ways in which the regime treated the people even before the Civil War. Regime brutality was indeed one of the main reasons why the Civil War started. Secondly, if the regime does not even attempt to rebuild legitimacy in the closing days of this conflict, and continues to brutalise civilian populations needlessly, its victory is likely to be a short-lived one. The people will have been beaten into submission, but they will be still alive, bitter and angry. That is not a sound basis for any political order.
In either case, the suffering in Syria still has no end in sight. And our resignation at Assad’s ongoing humanitarian abuses makes us complicit in them.

Can Netanyahu’s corruption be seen in isolation?
Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/January 15/18
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is a corrupt leader. But his corruption cannot be seen in isolation from deeply engrained corruption that has afflicted Israeli society as a whole. At the heart of that corruption is the Israeli occupation of Palestine - an illegal and immoral act that has benefited every living Israeli just as their ancestors have benefited from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Tens of thousands of Israelis have protested the corruption of Netanyahu and his business and government clique every Saturday for the last few weeks, uninterrupted. The center of these protests moved from Petah Tikva to Tel Aviv, signaling the growing momentum of the Israeli public outrage. “The people want legal justice,” read one of thousands of placards carried throughout the marches, which have now been recorded in 15 cities.Even the Israeli Right is joining the protest demanding ‘justice’ and accountability. The growing anti-Netanyahu sentiment is no longer a matter of politics championed by the so-called Israeli Left alone. Yet somehow, it escapes many of these Israelis that they are all investors, sustainers and beneficiaries of the mother of all 'illegal injustices' where four million Palestinians are besieged, mistreated, militarily occupied and subjugated behind checkpoints and massive walls. The Israelis pride themselves on their brand of “democracy”, one fueled by media propaganda purely to drum up support for Israel’s illegal practices.
Most intriguing about Netanyahu’s corruption is that it is not a reflection of him alone: this is layered corruption, involving a large network of Israel’s upper ranks
Propaganda campaign
However, the spin-off of this propaganda campaign is that democracy also means that Israelis are collectively accountable and culpable for the injustices meted out to occupied Palestinians every hour of every day. It is the sons and daughters of these Israelis that operate the checkpoints, besiege cities, shoot at protesters and enforce every act of military occupation and war, egged on by their elders. It is their money that maintains the illegal Jewish settlements, and their representatives at the Knesset that crafts the racist laws that further the suppression, isolation and humiliation of Palestinians. Yet, thanks to the Western media gatekeepers, the mere mention of “corruption” in relation to Israel is frowned upon regardless of the context of that criticism. Only when Israel’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) plummeted in recent years, coupled with the dwindling perception of many Israelis of their own leaders, did the media begin taking notice. And as Netanyahu was reeling against Palestinians, bragging on every platform of the supposed moral ascendency of his country, Israeli police was “visiting” his home, seeking interviews and evidence that could implicate him, even indict him in several major corruption scandals, some of which involve his wife, cousins, and other top aides.
Son’s implication
Only recently, a leaked recording aired by Israel’s Channel 2 seem to implicate his son, Yair as well. Most telling is that the Israeli public is so accustomed to the idea of a corrupt political system that as a whole, they no longer shape their political views and allegiances according to this reality. In this regard, whether the string of scandals now hounding Netanyahu lead to his sacking or not, matters little. Despite the fact that nearly half of Israelis that were polled last July believe that Netanyahu is corrupt, majority of them said they would still vote for him anyway. A more recent survey conducted by Channel 10 TV concluded that if general elections are held today, Netanyahu will garner 28 percent while his closest contenders, Avi Gabbay of the Zionist Camp, and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, will each gather 11 percent of the vote. “The next stage, which is drawing near, is for the citizens of Israel to re-elect a criminal as their leader and entrust their fate to him,” Israeli columnist, Akiva Eldar wrote in response to Netanyahu’s continued popularity, despite accusations of corruption and repeated police investigations. But if Eldar looks closely and honestly at that statement, and juxtaposes it with reality, he would discover that Israelis have, in fact, re-elected many criminals as their leaders. Alex Roy puts it more succinctly in a recent piece in the Times of Israel: “The fact that (Netanyahu) still has a good chance of being the prime minister after these coming elections says more about how used to corruption we have become than how clean he is.” Indeed, corruption in Israel is becoming more like mafia operations, roping in elected civil servants, military top brass, high-ranking lawyers and large conglomerates. The nature of the investigations that are closing in on Netanyahu points to this very fact as he is embroiled in ‘File 1000’ - the prime minister and his wife accepted gifts of large financial value from a renowned Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan, in exchange for favors that, if confirmed, required Netanyahu to use his political influence as the prime minister.
A secret deal
‘File 2000’ is the “Yisrael Hayom” affair. In this case, Netanyahu reached a secret deal with the publisher of the leading Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Arnon Mozes. According to the deal, Yedioth agreed to cut down on its criticism of Netanyahu’s policies in exchange for the latter's promise to decrease the sale of a rival newspaper, Yisrael Hayom. ‘Yisrael Hayom’ is owned by pro-Israeli American business tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu's close and powerful ally until the news of the Yedioth deal surfaced. Since then, ‘Yisrael Hayom’ turned against Netanyahu. ‘File 3000’ is the German submarines affair. Top national security advisors, all very closely aligned to Netanyahu, were involved in the purchase of German submarines that were deemed unnecessary, yet cost the government billions of dollars. Large sums of this money were allegedly syphoned by Netanyahu's inner circle and transferred to secret, private bank accounts. This case, in particular, is significant regarding the widespread corruption in Israel's upper echelons. There is also the “Berzeq affair” involving Israeli telecommunication giant, Berzeq, and Netanyahu's political ally and friend, Shlomo Filber. Netanyahu was the Minister of Communications until he was ordered by the court to step down in 2016. According to media reports, his handpicked replacement, Filber, served the role of 'spy' for the telecommunications powerhouse to ensure that critical decisions made by the government are communicated in advance to the company.
And so on...Most intriguing about Netanyahu’s corruption is that it is not a reflection of him alone: this is layered corruption, involving a large network of Israel’s upper ranks. Corruption in Israeli society has become particularly endemic after the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. The idea that ordinary Israelis can move into a Palestinian house, evict the family and claim the house as their own, with the full support of the military, government and court, exemplifies moral corruption in the highest degree.
But how different really was that when compared to the very birth of Israel on the ruins of Palestine in 1948? That was the genesis of Israel’s corruption racket. Protesting and blaming Netanyahu for Israel’s corruption deflect from the much larger and ingrained collective act of corruption carried out by Israeli society for decades. If Israelis wish to truly uproot corruption, they should start with uprooting the systematic racist and violent occupation that has wrought untold pain and suffering on the Palestinian people.

America's Most Pressing Threat
James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/January 15/18
When the newest US National Security Strategy was released last month, many intelligence, military and foreign-policy professionals considered it a pleasant surprise. It hits most of the mainstream concerns facing the US: the significant challenges we face from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran; the necessity of better homeland security against terrorist attacks; the importance of working with allies, partners and friends; and the need to determine sensible levels of defense spending. I called it “shockingly normal” in a Bloomberg View column. But it misses the mark in one particularly worrisome area: the threats related to climate change and global warming, which were all but ignored. Early reports indicate that a similar report expected to soon be released by the Pentagon, the National Defense Strategy, will make the same error of omission. Unfortunately, this is not surprising, given President Donald's Trump's campaign rhetoric expressing extreme skepticism about climate change, the appointment of an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who doesn’t believe man-made global warming is real, and the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. By following this path, the US is not only surrendering a position of global leadership on this crucial issue, but it's laying itself open to real security risks in the decades ahead.
What makes climate change so pernicious is that while the effects will only become catastrophic far down the road, the only opportunity to fix the problem rests in the present. In other words, waiting “to be sure climate change is real” condemns us to a highly insecure future if we make the wrong bet. We are in danger of missing not only the vast forest of looming climate change, but the ability to see some of the specific trees that will cause us the most problems. Some of the most obvious and pressing concerns include:
Water scarcity, droughts and resource struggles leading to wars and terrorism. Many studies have confirmed the broad effect of drought and water scarcity in driving violence across a wide variety of countries and regions. Syria, Sudan, Mali and the broad Arab world continue to be battered by rising temperatures and droughts. Resulting famines and economic hardship provide a breeding ground for recruiting disaffected, unemployed youth.
Rising sea levels that swamp our ports and coastlines. A brilliant new novel, "The American War" by Omar El Akkad, is set in a 21st-century US where rising sea levels have swamped much of Florida and led to a second Civil War. While this is evocative fiction, the grain of truth is that the seas are rising as the polar caps melt, and over time lower-lying areas of the country -- including some of our most vital military bases -- are at risk of flooding and eventually disappearing.
Arctic melting, rising geopolitical tension and competition. The recent viral video of the starving polar bear whose hunting grounds were literally melting away was heart-rending, but the true geopolitical significance of what is happening in the Arctic is far more significant. As the ice inexorably melts, it will open not only shipping routes, but also vast areas of the ocean floor to hydrocarbon extraction. This will generate geopolitical competition between Russia and the five NATO countries that sit on the so-called Arctic Porch, creating high tension in the “High North.”
Economic impact that undermines our ability to spend on defense. As climate change and global warming hurt the economy by requiring restoration of communities devastated by flooding and the loss of ports and arable land, budgets will be stretched thinner and thinner. Defense spending will be undermined, reducing our overall ability to ensure we are prepared for global military action when required. Extreme weather. Many experts believe the past hurricane season -- with devastating hits from Harvey (Texas), Irma (Florida) and Maria (Puerto Rico) -- are just a small tasteof what is to come. In each of those crises, the US military was forced to divert enormous resources -- hugely expensive ships, soldiers, aircraft and the like -- away from other vital tasks in order to respond. Over time, more such responses will continue to reduce overall defense readiness.
We must address these challenges -- now -- in three key ways.
to acknowledge the problem. The vast weight of scientific data supports the view that climate change and global warming are real, with immediate effects that will only grow with time. While debate is always valid for any issue of such great policy importance, we must hedge against the extremely high probability that we have a serious challenge and address it with concrete steps -- reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewables, and searching for technologies to reverse damage that has already occurred.
Second, the US must re-take a leadership role. We are still the largest economy in the world, have by far the greatest military capability and -- despite some missteps by the Trump administration -- have the greatest number of allies, partners and friends of any nation on earth. Washington needs to invest some of that international capital in helping create a sensible, balanced and fair global regime. Far better that we stay inside the tent of climate negotiations than try to drive events from outside it.
And third, the US needs to break out of its traditional stove-piped structure and try to address climate change coherently across all agencies and departments. If the White House is going to leave the issue out of the National Security Strategy for domestic political reasons, the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security must drive it back into their long-term plans.

Trump's Policy Should Focus on Iran's People
Eli Lake/Asharq Al Awsat/Bloomberg/January 15/18
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, like others in Western Europe, is worried once again that President Donald Trump will blow up the Iran nuclear deal.It's not just that the Europeans assert that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 accord. It's also that Gabriel believes exiting the agreement would send the wrong message to North Korea. “It’s absolutely necessary to have the signal that it’s possible by diplomatic approaches to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in a time where other parts of the world are discussing how to get nuclear weapons into force,” he told reporters at a meeting with his Iranian and European counterparts Thursday in Brussels.
Gabriel was sending a message to Trump. This weekend the president will have to decide, again, whether to re-impose the nuclear sanctions his predecessor lifted as part of an accord to bring transparency to Iran's nuclear program. His strategy has been to threaten those sanctions in order to get the Europeans to negotiate better terms with Iran. As the Washington Free Beacon reported this week, there is now a frantic effort in Congress and Trump's own administration to give this strategy more time.
It may seem that Trump and Gabriel are on opposite sides. But they are both stuck in a familiar policy cycle when it comes to rogue proliferators: threaten, punish and negotiate. As the nuclear bargain showed, it's possible to get predator states like Iran to temporarily pause nuclear programs in exchange for lifting sanctions and promises of investment. And yet the root of the problem in Iran remains the regime itself. Remember that as Europe, America, China and Russia negotiated with Iran's diplomats, its terror masters aided the Syrian dictator's campaign of mass murder.
A new approach is required, particularly in light of the demonstrations that have rocked Iran's regime in the last two weeks. The dictatorship cannot be separated from its proliferation. Indeed, the nuclear program is the dictator's insurance policy. Imagine if Iran did not have a nuclear card in 2009, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians came into the streets to protest a stolen presidential election? Western pressure would have been rightly focused over time on releasing the leaders of the Green Movement, who to this day remain under house arrest or in prison. Instead that issue was dropped by Europe and America, and we ended up with the nuclear deal.
It's time for Trump to make the Iranian people the focus of his Iran policy. This requires a few steps. First: Trump should not re-impose the nuclear sanctions. Those sanctions were designed to put maximum pressure on Iran's economy to force the regime to relent on its nuclear program. Aside from the lack of good options on what to do if Iran breaks out of the agreement, this approach would punish Iran's population at a moment when America should show solidarity with the country's freedom movement.
Dennis Ross and Richard Goldberg -- a former Obama adviser and a former Senate Republican staffer, who both helped to develop those original sanctions -- argue that in moments like this, it's possible to walk and chew gum. Ronald Reagan was able to pressure the Soviets on their treatment of dissidents and still hold them to commitments in their arms control agreements.
Instead, Trump should pressure European allies to adopt a unified policy to punish the Iranian regime for its treatment of political prisoners and demonstrators. Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky calls this approach "linkage" because it ties the dictator's abuse of his citizens to his legitimacy on the international stage. Trump should press European governments to begin treating Iran like apartheid South Africa.
This means rethinking the kinds of sanctions to impose on Iran. The targets should be narrower than Iran's central bank or its oil exports. Consider Iran's state broadcasting arm, known as the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or the Supreme Leader's slush fund, known as Setad. Targets like this help to separate the dictator and his henchmen from the population. In the case of Setad, it sends a particularly important message because this fund, which Reuters reports was worth $95 billion, is seeded with assets seized in court from regular Iranians.
The sanctions approach should also be different. Trump could take a page from the penalties imposed on Russian leaders -- sanctions named for the murdered former tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky -- and make the assets of the regime's leaders toxic.
The relatives of Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, should not be able to travel to Europe or America. The children of regime figures should not be allowed to study in America.
Trump can also instruct his government to do more, behind the scenes, to increase the redundancy and resilience of Iran's internet. Unlike in 2009, the regime cannot simply turn off the internet; the ministries of the state rely too much on the web to do that. This presents an opportunity for the US to make it easier for Iranians to get online, for instance by boosting the signals of cell towers near Iran's borders or working with communication platforms like Telegram to get around the state's recent ban.
Trump can also instruct his government to collect information on the regime's own brutality against its population. Here is a chance for European allies, who have embassies inside Iran, to also help. As I have written, the West should be compiling the names of Iranians arrested, beaten and killed in recent demonstrations, and outside groups should publicize this.
Threatening Iran's economy in the hopes of renegotiating the sunset provisions of the nuclear deal presumes the mullahs in charge of Iran will be there forever. Instead, Trump should work with Iran's people, who are focused on a more important sunset: the end of the regime.

Victory under Threat in Syria
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/18
It is not enough to declare your victory. It remains incomplete if the other side does not announce its defeat. Often, it only takes a small jab to remind a heavyweight boxer that the fight did not end with a knockout and that the staggering adversary was still capable of ruining the party and causing injury.
It is likely that Vladimir Putin felt bitter when he received the reports. The drone wave that targeted his forces’ bases in Hmeimim and Tartus was annoying and embarrassing. A handful of drones, operated by regular technology, managed to confuse the Russians. Such a small operation is not enough to change the rules of the game, but it helped reveal that the fortress can be breached and flaws can be found in the mighty Russian military system. A minor incident exposed the weakness of the measures taken by the major power. The message is clear and it is that the war is not over yet.
Russia exonerated Turkey from the incident. It is difficult to imagine that Turkey would at the moment embark on such an adventure. It paid a heavy price in the past when one of its pilots dared to challenge a Russian jet. It was forced to change its policy and choices.
Moscow tried to imply that the drone operation was backed by the US, but Washington was quick to categorically deny it. Some speculate that an opposition faction wanted to remind Russia that the war was still on and open to many more rounds, despite the change in the balance of power brought about by Moscow’s military intervention.
The worst part of the incident was that it took place less than a month after Putin declared his victory in Syria. He believed that the mission was complete and started to withdraw some of his forces. The regional and international scene appeared rosy to the czar and there was no counter-project in Syria. The majority of regional and international forces dealt with the Russian solution as a fait accompli. Many powers also believed the Russian solution to be the only realistic way to curb Iran’s role. The US itself seemed ready to accept the Russian success in Syria if it served to limit Iran’s role.
Putin was not worried about the upcoming March presidential elections, which in reality is nothing more than a referendum given that he has no real competitor running against him. He however was deliberate in announcing the victory in order to prop up his image of a skilled leader. Syria did not become his Vietnam. At the lowest possible cost, he succeeded in orchestrating a major reversal that restored Russia’s dignity and standing. All this has taken place at a time when the US has been embroiled in Twitter wars, Angela Merkel is struggling to form a government and Theresa May is laboring with the divorce from the European Union.
Sometimes, a surprise comes when you least expect it. A handful of drones reignited the debate over the obstacles hindering the real Russian victory in Syria. The real victory is when you protect your field wins with a permanent political solution that allows you to seriously say that the war is over.
The reality says that the Russian solution in Syria is no cakewalk. The calculations being weighed at the Astana talks that include Russia, Iran and Turkey contrast with each other. Iran, for example, believes itself to be a main partner in the victory that was achieved in Syria. It believes that the Russian air force could not have changed the course of the war without the role the Iran-backed militias had played on the ground. Turkey has other interests in mind. Its main concern is to deal a fatal blow to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given the YPG in Afrin a week to surrender or face his forces. More than that, Turkey had demanded that Russia and Iran fulfill their past commitments over the Syrian regime violations in “de-escalation” zones, especially in Idlib. Iran, meanwhile, accepts nothing less than the Assad regime being restored to what it was before the war. Turkey has absolutely no interest in seeing that happen.
Russia has an actual interest in appearing as the peacemaker in Syria. It does not want to stay in a country that is witnessing an endless war. It is however finding difficulty in providing even the most basic conditions for a solution that appears rather superficial. The regime that had during the most difficult times of the war never shown an inclination to make concessions is unlikely to do so now when the worst is behind it. The regime can at any rate occasionally rely on the hardline Iranian stance or at least use it as an excuse. It is no secret that a solution that redistributes power, even proportionally, among all players will not in the long-term be in Iran’s interest.
Moscow has done all it has in its power to speed up imposing a solution in Syria. It exerted extraordinary efforts to deplete the essence of the Geneva peace talks. It also exerted extraordinary efforts to impose changes within the opposition body involved in the negotiations. The recent days revealed however the extent of the challenges facing Moscow. The United Nations has not shied away from voicing its opposition to the Sochi talks and attempts to undermine Geneva. Washington itself appears to be backtracking and adopting a more hardline approach, even if at this point this stance is limited to rejecting any solution in Syria that favors Iran. The Europeans appear to be more inclined to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies, despite their commitment to their nuclear deal with it. Israel, meanwhile, appears to be more skeptical than ever of Russia’s ability to stave off Iran-backed militias from its border and has therefore intensified its air strikes in Syria. Clearest of all is Russia’s growing difficulty in finding a middle ground between the demands of regional and international players in Syria. The lowering of the expectations over the Russian solution may pave the way for other options that may prolong the war, which ISIS’ defeat demonstrated was much more complicated than many previously expected. Reaching the final victory in Syria is difficult. As long as a political solution is missing, each military victory will remain vulnerable.

Iran: Anatomy of a National Revolt
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/18
With its flames declining after days of high blaze, the “events” that shook Iran In December and early January are still attracting a tsunami of comment, speculation and, as always in such cases, misrepresentation. The first question is what should we call what happened.
The term “events” is too anodyne and the term “revolution” too hyperbolic to do the job. The Khomeinist leadership in Tehran started by using the term “disturbances” (eghteshashat) as if we were dealing with a stampede in a bazaar or a crowd crash in a Spanish bullfight arena. When it became clear that “disturbances” in some 100 cities couldn’t be dismissed in so cavalier a manner, the Khomeinist authorities went for their fallback position of blaming foreign conspirators for the whole thing. Thus, state propaganda gave us the term “conspiracy” (to-teheh) with a colorful cast of characters supposedly involved. These included US President Donald Trump, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Barzani clique in Iraqi Kurdistan, a brother-in- law of Saddam Hussein, a cousin of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a retired CIA spook converted to the “wrong kind of Islam”.
Within days, however, the Khomeinist tune had become laughable. How could such a disparate cast of characters put so many angry Iranians on the streets? And how could such big chunks of the Khomeinist establishment itself express sympathy with the protesters rather than shower them with abuse in the manner he mullahs have used since time immemorial?
No, the term “conspiracy” wouldn’t do either.
The Khomeinist propaganda barons then turned to the term “sedition” (fitnah) which has several advantages as far as they are concerned. To start with this is a theological term that denotes a major schism in which the established version of the faith of is challenged by a rival narrative backed by the sword.
Thus, the Khomeinist message was the protesters were directly attacking Islam. News outlets controlled by Islamic Security even put out footage and print reportages with photos claiming that the protesters were burning mosques and hussainiehs. The subtext was that Iranian protesters were like the Syrians who had risen against Bashar al-Assad with the sole aim of: destroy holy shrines and tombs.
However, the term “sedition” didn’t stick either. In fact, one remarkable feature of the protests was that, for the first time in Iranian contemporary history, there was no religious undertone in any of the slogans and speeches made by protest leaders. What we witnessed in Iran was a political movement with political aims. The next attempt to misrepresent the “events” was to brand them as “economic”. Some former Obama administration officials and Khomeinist lobbyists in the US and Europe tried the gimmick to claim that the Khomeinist regime remains politically popular but faces popular anger because of economic sanctions that have made life difficult for most Iranians. When it became clear that most of the slogans were political that term, too, became redundant. In any case, the whole thing was based on a misreading of Marx’s division of reality into “economic infrastructure” and “political superstructure.”
Many Iranians, including some within the regime, implicitly agree that the mullahs took over a fairly prosperous country four decades ago and turned it into a poor house where up to five million suffer from chronic hunger and a further 25 million are housed in slums unfit for human habitation. And, yet, they know that the nation’s economic woes are a result of the regime’s reckless policies at home and abroad.
Thus, what we witnessed was a national political revolt against the status quo.
The term national does not mean that the whole of Iran or even a majority were involved. The revolt was national because it cut across class, regional ethnic and religious divides. In some places, for example Isfahan, the richest local families were marching alongside the poorest of the city with middle class and lower middle class people also on side. In Arak, an industrial city, workers and their industrialist employers marched shoulder to shoulder to indicate they were fed up with the Khomeinist system.
The revolt also skirted the generation gap, bringing together people of all ages. To be sure, most protesters were young; and over 90 percent of the 3,000 or so arrested by Islamic Security are aged below 30. But who could forget the scenes in which men and women in their 80s led the marches in Mash’had, Tabriz , Shiraz and Kerman?
The national revolt also cut across the gender gap by bringing together almost as many women as men. In many places, even smaller towns, women assumed leadership or revived the memory of Pasionaria with their fiery speeches.
While the Khomeinist set-up includes a few thousand clerics it certainly does not represent the whole of the Shi’ite clergy; this is why many mullah and students of theology joined the revolt, emphasizing its national character. It is interesting that none of the top or even middle –ranking mullahs of Qom, Mash’had or Najaf came out in support of the regime by condemning the national revolt. The regime had to find its defenders among a few hundred mullahs on government payroll.
Because the revolt took place in every one of 31 provinces it brought together all of the nation's 18 ethnic communities
The revolt was national for another reason: no political party or group or known political personality played a major role in it. Almost all parties, including virtually all those who had supported Khomeini in 1978-79 joined the revolt, at least verbally, as did an amazing roster of former top officials and apologists of the Khomeinist system. Of the 290 members of the Islamic Majlis, the ersatz parliament, at least 60 made some noise in support of the revolt. Also remarkable was the reluctance of the military elite, especially in the regular army, to stand against the national revolt, at least in its early stages.
What happened was unprecedented in Iran’s contemporary history.
It was a truly national revolt against the established order. It didn’t offer a clear alternative but helped clear the air by puncturing the Khomeinist regime’s claim of invincibility. Even a year ago few would admit that the Khomeinist system was overthrowable. Now many, including some of the regime’s lobbyists abroad, publicly do so. In 1989, Ali Khamenei had this to say to a session of the Assembly of Experts that hastily named him “Supreme Guide”: “One must shed tears of blood for Islamic ummah if I am considered worthy of becoming its leader.”
I don’t think crying tears of blood is the only option. A soberer option is to close the chapter of Khomeinism, Supreme-Guidism and related nonsensical notions by allowing the Iranian nation to reshape its life in a rational manner.
The national revolt was about the change that may be delayed but won’t be denied.

Facebook: Championing Blasphemy Laws
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/January 15/18
What is "harmful content" according to the new Facebook guide for Muslims? "Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred, far right extremism and terrorist inspired violent extremist content".
The guide does not mention Islamic incitement to violence, which is rampant on social media and -- unlike the other content mentioned -- has deadly and tragic consequences in the real world. Most of those who perpetrate terrorist attacks in the real world are Muslims -- not "Islamophobes," anti-Muslims or right wing extremists.
Lakin v. Facebook is a lawsuit, representing 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs, which aims to stop Facebook from "allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens and Jews on its internet platform."
Khan convened a special meeting of Muslim ambassadors to discuss how effectively to "raise the voice of the entire Muslim world against the madness unleashed against Islam and holy personalities in the name of freedom of expression". — Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Facebook, in cooperation with a British Muslim group, Faith Associates, recently launched a new "guide" developed especially for Muslims: "Keeping Muslims Safe Online: Tackling Hate and Bigotry".
The launch of the guide was hosted on November 29 at the British Parliament, where Karim Palant, Facebook's UK Public Policy manager, acknowledged "the partnership of Facebook with Faith Associates and said this was a first step in a line of activities being planned to protect the Facebook family". Simon Milner, Head of Policy UK at Facebook, stated:
"We're proud to be supporting Faith Associates in the development of their online safety guide. Facebook welcomes all communities, and there is no place for hate on the platform".
It is curious that of all the groups Facebook could have chosen to "protect" -- if one is to believe that Facebook intends to "protect" other groups as well -- it chose Muslims. Are Muslims the most targeted group in the world today? In Canada, according to fresh statistics, hate crimes against Muslims have fallen while hate crimes against Jews have risen. In the United States, according to Gatestone's A. Z. Mohamed:
"Since 1992... anti-Semitic incidents have been higher than those perpetrated against other groups... To this day, the greatest number of reported religion-based hate crimes have been directed at Jews, and the second greatest against Muslims... in 2015... there was a sharp rise in religion-based hate crimes, particularly against Islam and Muslims. Yet even then, Jews were 2.38 times more likely than Muslims to become victims of a hate crime."
Facebook, in cooperation with a British Muslim group, recently launched a "guide" developed especially for Muslims: "Keeping Muslims Safe Online: Tackling Hate and Bigotry". Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, wrote about making Facebook a "safe space" for Muslims. He has made no similar supportive statements in favor of Jews or Christians. Pictured: Parts of the cover of the new guide co-produced by Facebook.
In the UK, anti-Semitic hate crimes were at the highest recorded level ever in 2016 -- 1,078 offenses registered in 2016 compared to 938 in 2015. According to the Guardian, the Metropolitan Police (MET) recorded "1,260 incidents of Islamophobic hate crime in the 12 months to March 2017" in London alone. However, the MET police's definition of "Islamophobia" -- which the MET police claims is widely accepted, including by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights -- is exceedingly wide. According to the definition, as described in the 2012 report, "Hate Crimes Against London's Muslim Communities 2005-2012", Islamophobia is present when:
Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
Islam is seen as separate and 'other'. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a 'clash of civilisations'.
Islam is seen as a political ideology and is used for political or military advantage.
Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society
Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
Not even Orwell could have made this list up.
Even if there is no statistical basis for Facebook's new guide for Muslims, its creation should not come as a surprise. On December 10, 2015, in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, wrote a Facebook post about making Facebook a "safe space" for Muslims. His post did not contain a word of condemnation of the terrorist attack, or allude to any of the widespread Islamic terrorist incitement that his social media platform hosts. Zuckerberg wrote:
"I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world... After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others... If you're a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you."
The guide appears to be one of the ways in which Zuckerberg has kept his promise. The recently released guide was "...produced in partnership with Facebook to empower you, as a Muslim user on the platform, with the tools, resources and knowledge to identify and deal with harmful content and keep you and your friends safe".
What is "harmful content" according to the new Facebook guide for Muslims? "Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred, far right extremism and terrorist inspired violent extremist content", which "all manifest themselves online and can have a detrimental effect on confidence and mental wellbeing". The guide goes on to detail how "harmful content" should be reported to Facebook and in some cases even to the police.
The guide does not mention Islamic incitement to violence, which is rampant on social media and -- unlike the other content mentioned -- has deadly and tragic consequences in the real world, with thousands of people murdered in Islamic terrorist attacks. Most of those who perpetrate terrorist attacks in the real world are Muslims -- not "Islamophobes", anti-Muslims or right wing extremists. Nevertheless, the only -- obfuscating and vague -- reference to Islamic terrorism is at the very end of the guide:
"If you see someone sharing terrorist content and encouraging others to join extremist groups, report them and then make or share posts that show true Islamic messages of peace, mercy and tolerance".
Zuckerberg has made no similar supportive statements in favor of Jews or Christians. So far, no guides have been released on how to keep Jews or Christians safe on Facebook, despite the fact that Jews are overwhelmingly targeted by Muslim anti-Semites and jihadists. Considerably more is at stake in these cases than "a detrimental effect on confidence and mental wellbeing". Two ongoing legal cases against Facebook attest to this fact. One is Lakin v. Facebook, a lawsuit, representing 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs, which aims to stop Facebook from "allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens and Jews on its internet platform."
Facebook is acting out of a political concern to show Muslim countries that Facebook is willing to respect Islamic blasphemy laws. In July, Vice President of Facebook Joel Kaplan promised Pakistan -- in a call with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan -- that Facebook will "remove fake accounts and explicit, hateful and provocative material that incites violence and terrorism". Khan told the VP of Facebook:
"the entire Muslim Ummah was greatly disturbed and has serious concerns over the misuse of social media platforms to propagate blasphemous content... Pakistan appreciates the understanding shown by the Facebook administration and the cooperation being extended on these issues".
Prior to the Pakistani government's talk with Facebook management in July, Khan convened a special meeting of Muslim ambassadors to discuss "blasphemous content" on social media, and how effectively to "raise the voice of the entire Muslim world against the madness unleashed against Islam and holy personalities in the name of freedom of expression". Khan also met with the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on this issue specifically, before talking to Facebook management.
Enforcing Islamic blasphemy law is one of the OIC's main causes. How convenient for the OIC that Facebook has decided to champion it.
**Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Quran Says Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews
Saied Shoaaib/Gatestone Institute/January 15/18
Quranic passages clearly illustrate the Jews' imperative to enter the land of Israel.
And [mention, O Muhammad], when Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember the favor of Allah [God] upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back and [thus] become losers." — Quran, Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:20-21.
According to verses in the Quran, God punishes the Jews for their sin of refusing to fight the indigenous people in the land, and God is angry that the Jews refused to convert to Islam. Yet the verses are consistent in their assertion that God gave the Jews the Holy Land.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6 official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Muslims around the world held angry demonstrations, during which they chanted slogans about Jerusalem "belonging to Muslims." This ought to seem odd to anyone versed in Islamic scripture, since the Quran specifically states that God promised the land of Israel, including Jerusalem, to the Jews.
An aerial view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and much of Jerusalem's Old City. (Image source: Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)
Although ordinary Muslims who might not actually have read their holy book could be excused for their ignorance about the Jewish roots of and rights to Israel and Jerusalem, the same cannot be said for the leaders of Muslim countries, imams and the heads of illustrious Islamic institutions. Dignitaries and scholars of that caliber should know better. Yet many of them repeat false assertions that contradict the Quran and scholarly interpretations of its verses.
The fact is that the Quran does not mention Jerusalem or Palestine. It does refer to the sanctity of other holy places, such as Mecca -- which is called the "Mother of Cities" -- where the Prophet Muhammad was born and where the house of God was built by Abraham, the "father of the prophets."
The Quran also mentions the city of Yathrib [Medina], where the Prophet Mohammed emigrated after he was persecuted in Mecca, and the location of his grave and the Prophet's Mosque.
Other cities cited in the Quran are Babel and Aram; and a country named is Egypt. Yet, not only are Palestine and Jerusalem absent from the text; there is a consensus of interpretation among the most respected Sunni and Shiite Muslim scholars of past centuries -- such as Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Abi Zayd, Mahmud al-Alusi, Al-Baghawi -- that, according to the Quran, God gave to the Jews the land from the Nile to the Euphrates, territory that includes not only Jerusalem and Palestine, but a large part of Egypt and Iraq, and all of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The following Quranic passages clearly illustrate the Jews' imperative to enter the land of Israel:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember the favor of Allah [God] upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back and [thus] become losers." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:20-21]
They said, "O Moses, indeed within it is a people of tyrannical strength, and indeed, we will never enter it until they leave it; but if they leave it, then we will enter." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:22]
Two men among those who feared [disobeying the people upon whom] Allah had bestowed favor said, "Enter upon them through the gate, for when you have entered it, you will be predominant. And upon Allah rely, if you should be believers." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:23]
[The Israelites] said, "O Moses, indeed we will not enter it, ever, as long as they are within it; so go, you and your Lord, and fight. Indeed, we are remaining right here." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:23]
[Moses] said, "My Lord, indeed I do not possess except myself and my brother, so part us from the defiantly disobedient people." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:25]
[God] said, "Then indeed, it is forbidden to them for forty years [in which] they will wander throughout the land. So do not grieve over the defiantly disobedient people." [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:26]
According to the verses above, God punishes the Jews for their sin of refusing to fight the indigenous people in the land. And God is angry that the Jews refused to convert to Islam. The Quran is even harsher towards the Jews when recounting the stories of Muhammad's battles against them. Yet the verses are consistent in their assertion that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.
The reason this is relevant today is that it exposes the hypocrisy of those radical Muslims who claim to believe in and adhere to the letter of the Quran, yet use the claim that Palestine and Jerusalem are Islamic for political purposes and propaganda.
This is not to say that because the land of Israel was a divine gift to the Jews, they therefore have all rights to it. On the contrary, no future peace between Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom reside there, will or should be determined by scripture. This proclamation, however, is as good a reason as any to stop misquoting it.
Saied Shoaaib is a Muslim writer and researcher, specializing in Islamic movements. He is so-author of the recently published book, SUBMISSION: The Danger of Political Islam to Canada – With a Warning to America, written with co-authors Tom Quiggin, Tahir Gora, Jonathon Cotler, and Rick Gill with a foreword by Raheel Raza. The book is available on in both paperback and Kindle versions.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

US sanctions will check Iranian regime’s ambitions
العقوبات الأميركية تلحظ الأطماع الإيرانية
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/January 15/ 2018
President Donald Trump has set an ultimatum to address and fix the “disastrous flaws” in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — aka the Iran nuclear deal — in an attempt to more efficiently curb the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. He also imposed new sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and people, including Sadeq Larijani.
Sanctions against Larijani are critical because he is one of the most powerful politicians in Iran. He is a veteran of the regime, a close advisor to and an ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the head of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary.
The Iranian regime has threatened a “severe” response to the US sanctions. While these kinds of threats by the Iranian generals are political posturing and boasting, the regime will most likely ratchet up its asymmetric warfare in the region. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will likely increase its financial, military, intelligence and advisory support to those militias and terrorist groups in the region that have as their mission inflicting damage on US and Arab nations’ national security interests and scuttling their foreign policy.
The Iranian leaders and state-owned Persian outlets have also downplayed Trump’s sanctions to project power to their fundamentalist base and proxies.
Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the White House’s decision on the nuclear deal, as well as the new sanctions, are significant when contextualized in the larger picture. The statements are a political blow and a warning to the leaders of the Iranian regime.
On the one hand, the sanctions imposed on Larijani, as well as those on other influential officials, are a critical victory for human rights defenders and the Iranian people. The sanctions empower the people to further pursue their demands for justice, rule of law, democracy, and to bring those who have committed human rights violations closer to justice.
The sanctions on the IRGC’s cyber unit are also a step towards establishing a larger program that would promote peace and stability by combating agents of the Iranian regime for their concerted attempts in hacking other governmental systems and organizations, and causing billions of dollars of damage.
White House’s decision to set an ultimatum to fix the nuclear deal is a political blow and a warning to Tehran, which has used the JCPOA to heighten its interventionist and expansionist policies in the Arab world.
In addition, the White House is sending a robust message that the Iranian regime will not only be monitored for its nuclear defiance, development, research and proliferation, but it will also be closely watched for its interventions in the region and human rights violations. In other words, the policy towards the Iranian regime is comprehensive; it is not solely conducted through the prism of the JCPOA.
On the other hand, when it comes to waiving nuclear sanctions on Iran “for the last time”, the White House has proved that the critics are wrong again. The US suggested it will rely on soft power and diplomacy this time to address the loopholes in the nuclear deal.
At the international level, this would grant the administration a more robust platform to persuade the UK, France and Germany to fix the nuclear agreement or to pull out of it. Some of the solutions include removing the “sunset clause”, which basically gives the Iranian regime a green light to resume its nuclear program with no restrictions after the expiration of the deal. If other parties do not take necessary and adequate actions to address the shortcomings of the JCPOA, the US has buttressed its position and laid out the groundwork to re-impose the sanctions lifted by the previous administration.
In 90 days, if the nuclear deal is not fixed, the Trump administration has also created a legitimate reason to pull out of the deal, which has contributed to more military adventurism by the Iranian regime.
At the domestic level, in order to eliminate excuses, the White House is also giving the US Congress additional time to either work on legislation that would address the loopholes of the nuclear deal, or will increase the president’s leverage vis-a-vis other members of the JCPOA. This would enable him to pressure the other JCPOA members into fixing some of the inadequacies of the nuclear deal, such as requiring Iran to allow its military sites to be inspected for nuclear development, research, weaponization and proliferation.
Iran must also be required to adhere to the spirit of the nuclear deal, as it is continuously heightening interventionist and expansionist policies in the Arab world and violating human rights inside Iran and abroad. The nuclear deal has empowered the IRGC and its militias in the region due to the sanctions relief. This has further radicalized, militarized and destabilized the region. Iran continues to escalate its antagonistic policy towards other Arab nations, the US and other Western nations.
Although the Iranian regime is downplaying the US actions and statements, the new sanctions and the final waiver of nuclear sanctions builds a robust plan, which will more effectively counter the Iranian regime’s hegemonic ambitions and destructive behavior in the region.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh